Gregg Berhalter: Artur deal shows "You can't believe everything you read"

Artur - Columbus Crew SC - Josef Martinez - Atlanta United - close-up

Columbus Crew SC have already wrapped up one of the club’s biggest to-do list items of the offseason, securing the permanent transfer of Brazilian midfielder Artur.

The 21-year-old joined Columbus before the 2017 season on loan from Brazilian giants Sao Paolo, and quickly became one of the more intriguing young players on the Columbus roster. He made 24 appearances, including playing an important role in the club’s playoff run to the Eastern Conference Final.

Reports out of Brazil suggested that Sao Paolo wanted Artur back, and when the midfielder posted a Tweet that showed him ready to fly home, some expected that Columbus would be unable to secure a permanent deal.

But the club announced Wednesday afternoon that they had successfully completed a permanent transfer for the midfielder in what sporting director and head coach Gregg Berhalter called one of the club's offseason priorities.

Berhalter said Artur had “probably a very typical first season as a real pro” that included “great moments” and “moments where he was adapting,” but set the ceiling very high for his new acquisition.

“His performances were getting better and better as the season was going, and that’s when we knew we had someone special,” Berhalter said in a conference call Wednesday. “I think he has a very high level. I would go as far as to say he’s one of the most promising young players in the league.

"Is he going to realize that potential? We don’t know. Hopefully we can help bring it out of him. But what I do know is that he has the character and the mental makeup to succeed.”

Berhalter said the deal wasn’t easy to complete, but added, “You can’t believe everything you read,” in reference to reports that Sao Paolo wouldn’t be selling Artur.

He credited Crew SC’s developing relationship with Sao Paolo for getting the deal done, but also said the increasing exposure of MLS in Brazil played a part in selling both Artur and Sao Paolo on the move.

“Part of it is that MLS is growing,” he said. “It’s a league for young, exciting players. You see it in a number of cases all around the league. The profile of our league is increasing a lot. Almost all our games were live on TV in Brazil, and we’re getting noticed.”

With Artur’s deal done, Berhalter’s focus will shift elsewhere.

One of the last remaining questions about the players returning to the club is Kekuta Manneh. The speedy winger is out of contract with Columbus, and is on a trial with FC Union Berlin of Germany’s second tier.

But for Berhalter, that trial doesn’t mean he’s ruling out Manneh’s return. In fact, he said he helped orchestrate it.

“We were very supportive of that [trial]; we knew about it early,” he said. “I actually called some people about him. We were extremely supportive of that. I’m all for players exploring their options. He is out of contract; we do want to re-sign him. We think he can make a big impact with us here. But at the end of the day, the player wants to see some of his options, and I completely understand that.”